OLYMPIA -- Special 4-H Club license plates aim to bring recognition and possibly dollars to youth development programs in Benton and Franklin counties.
Natalie Kinion, the Washington State University Extension 4-H Youth Development regional specialist for Benton and Franklin counties, told the Herald that she looks forward to seeing the 4-H logo -- the green four-leaf clovers with an "H" on each leaf -- on vehicles.
Starting in 2013, drivers can buy a 4-H license plate for $40, and about $28 of it will go toward 4-H youth development in the state.
The plates also will bring recognition to the more 90,000 children and 10,000 adult volunteers in the program, Kinion said.
In Benton and Franklin counties, more than 1,400 children and 400 adult volunteers make up 115 4-H clubs, Kinion said.
The clubs focus on making children better through community service and learning activities in agriculture, crafts, performing arts, health, leadership, science and more.
Most of the clubs are paid for by a combination of federal grants and private fundraising, said Pat BoyEs, director of WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development.
"We try to keep the cost as low as possible by working with grants and donors, but members do self-pay quite a bit," BoyEs said.
The local robotics club spends more than $10,000 a year to make and maintain robots, which students take to national competitions, Kinion said.
But if 4-H license plate sales reach 3,000 annually, a goal set by BoyEs, the program would receive $100,000 in revenue from the state.
The funding could go toward programs such as the robotics club, but administrators have not decided how to allocate the money, she said.
The program already receives funding from the state, but that funding goes to WSU, and the university decides how much to give the program, BoyEs said.
And because lawmakers have cut WSU state funding in half in the past four years, 4-H has been cut too.
The $110,000 from WSU goes toward the program's operational costs, such as training volunteers and maintaining regional offices, BoyEs said.
Unlike the current state funding that funnels through WSU, the 4-H program will directly receive revenue from the license plates.
"That's why I'm so excited about the state license plate, because it's ours," BoyEs said.
BoyEs said her pride for her program has sparked a friendly competition between the 4-H and WSU license plates.
"My hope is ours will be more popular. That's just my competitive spirit," BoyEs said.
But, to be realistic, she said the WSU license plate is the most successful one in the state, raising $250,000 annually.
Kinion said, "I would be ecstatic if our plates are as successful as theirs."